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Scout awards night August 31, 2006

Posted by Joe in Scouts.
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Two or three times a year, perhaps even as much as once a quarter, the Cub Scouts have an awards night where each scout is presented with the patches, beltloops, trophies, and pins they’ve earned since the last awards night.

The Boy Scouts of America realize that every child thrives on recognition; they like to feel acknowledged and patted on the back when they’ve accomplished something. The Scouts expect a lot of the young boys, and the boys seem to live up to those expectations. There are ample opportunities for a scout to earn an award.

As part of the ceremony, each scout is brought in front of the whole pack and presented with their awards. Then the pack gives them a “round of applause” (the clapping is done in a circular motion for a “round” of applause).

Benjamin received several beltloops that he earned while at the resident camp this summer – Science, Astronomy, and Flag Football. He also received a pin (and even higher accomplishment) in BB Gun shooting. Plus a few other things.

The two items that he prized the most were Bobcat patch and the trophy. The Bobcat patch is presented the the scout when they’ve memorized some things about being a scout – like what scouting means, why character is important, why you should do your best, the pledge of allegiance and scout promise, and how to recognize inappropriate behavior by adult leaders and what to do about it. Anyway, the patch supposed to be pinned on up side down and remain that way until that scout does a good deed for his mother. Then she’ll sow it on right side up. But rather than turning the patch upside down to pin it on, we turn the scout up side down.

The other cool thing in Benjamin’s eyes was the trophy he received for helping to build the winning soapbox derby car.


A Growing Family August 30, 2006

Posted by Laura in Family.

The observant reader of previous posts may have noticed some mentions of “being in the family way.” We are officially at the halfway point and had our comprehensive ultrasound today. Here is a picture of our little bundle of joy.


(In case you are wondering since it’s kind of hard to tell, she’s sucking her thumb).

Many of you know (and grieved with us) when God called Baby Daniel home last year at this time, before he was born. We are so grateful for the prayers that have sustained us thus far and we praise God for this healthy baby.

Baby Webb is officially due to make her appearance in mid-January, but with my track record of early deliveries, we expect to see her before the end of the year. We will entertain name suggestions for this new “kid” also, but all the ones listed for the goats thus far are right out! (Actually, we are leaning towards Lydia right now, but haven’t settled for sure on that name).

Rachel is truly delighted to hear she will have a sister. She’s hardly stopped dancing and grinning. Benjamin, being in a rather male-centered phase right now, is not pleased. He can’t imagine what he will do with another sister. When Joe tried to console him that he and Benjamin will get to pal around more, Benjamin furrowed his brow and stated indignantly that if he’s going to have another sister, he’s going to have to spend more time outside! He’s already asked me how long it will be before I can have a boy.

Fire Up the (Chicken) Tractor August 29, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Back in the spring, Joe and I spent a number of weekends building our first “chicken tractor.” At the time, we had a lot of good reasons for designing it the way we did, but in the day-to-day use of it, we now forget a lot of the selling points.

Ours is built in a style reminiscent of the English versions of these portable coops (often called “arks”). Joe is a big fan of building STURDY things so the strength of the triangles appealed to him. One downside of going with this design is a lot of measuring and cutting, especially on the angles. You also must have a miter saw. Another is the weight that comes along with using so much wood.


We used cow panels as the sides and covered them with chicken wire. Over 2/3 of it, we attached a tarp to give the chickens shade and protection from weather. We put eyebolts and tow ropes on both ends to use for pulling it to new plots of pasture.

Though we do occasionally cull our flock for table use, the majority of our chickens are laying hens rather than broilers. (We prefer to let broody hens hatch eggs and raise chicks to buying day-old chicks that will need constant attention from us). Our greatest need was for a tractor that included laying boxes, but our design with regards to the boxes was seriously flawed. They should have been right inside the door for easy collection, but for some crazy reason, we put them on the cross-piece in the middle. We did know they would be uncomfortable for us to reach, but we also figured we could send in the short kids to retrieve them.

In the end it didn’t matter because the hens wouldn’t use them anyway. They didn’t much resemble the boxes they were accustomed to, so that may explain it. The hens laid the eggs on the ground in the grass and used the boxes to sleep (and relieve themselves) despite the roosting rails provided.

(As you can see, the ones inside think they want out and the ones outside look longingly in.)

Not using the nesting boxes actually turned out to be okay because then no one had to go inside to retrieve eggs. We had designed the short end pieces out of 2 x 4s and the long side pieces out of 2 x 6s- this allowed us to drag the tractor more easily. We also angled the ends of the sides to let them slip over uneven ground better. The 2 inch gap on the bottom of the ends let the tractor pass over the eggs as it was moved to fresh grass (but also required us to block the ends with scrap wood to keep chickens in and predators out). This design does have a few plusses, but it is also heavy and time-consuming to build.

When we went on vacation, kind friends offered to feed the animals for us. We wanted to streamline the process for them to save time, so we put all the chickens back in the henhouse. After we returned, the heat and fatigue of the first-trimester of pregnancy squashed my motivation to start dragging that thing around again. Only last week did we finally put it back into service.


When deciding on which chickens to house in the tractor, we settled on 2 criteria- ones we especially wanted to protect (the “special ones” and the two turkey poults) and ones that wouldn’t roost in the henhouse at night anyway. It wasn’t too difficult to get the ones still sleeping in the barn stall or the turkey poults. The others were a bit more trouble. The other “teenagers” that had hatched in the barn claim a tree beside the house as their bed. A 20 foot tall evergreen.


Joe had previously tried to climb it to retrieve them after they had roosted one night so we could give some to friends. He learned the hard way that while those branches are long, they aren’t sturdy. The only way I could get them down this time was to jump up, grab hold of the limbs, and pull them down until I could reach a bird. Most of them were just smart enough to settle on limbs too high for me. They still sleep there.


After a week in the tractor now, the residents still haven’t quite gotten used to the daily move. There is much protest and crazed flapping each time I pull it the 12 feet to new grass. I have to be careful to move very slowly and not to pin them since they run to the far end and get pulled along each time. Surely they’ll get it soon.

We need to build several more tractors, but we are still debating the merits of different styles. I think we are leaning toward a hoop type next time. The present one probably will become our “nursery tractor,” a broiler pen, or possibly one that we will use (without moving it at all) to create new garden beds.


Getting ready for goats August 27, 2006

Posted by Joe in Farm.

After the morning’s church service, I spent this Sunday afternoon in a labor of love – working in the pasture. I find working in the garden and pasture on our farm so very refreshing. Sure I was working in the direct sun today when it must have been in the upper 90’s, with humidity that would equal the temperature. But still there is something invigorating about hard work, on your own land.

That’s why I don’t feel that working with my family around Blessed Acres is not respecting the Sabbath. It’s what the Sabbath is all about, honoring God, respecting His creation, spending time with your family, and not working on or worry about your day-job.

This day was fencing. You see, we have agreed to buy 3 goats once they’ve been weaned from their mother in September. We’re getting 2 females and a billy. They are all siblings so we’ll have to have to “fix” the billy to prevent, well, you get the picture.

Rachel wants to name them Sally, Princess, and Tim. Benjamin is adamant that those names are far too feminine for goats – even though 2 are females. His only suggestion has been to name the billy either Buster or Knight.

We don’t really know too much about goats. Laura grew up around horses, me around cows. Laura’s read a lot about them and hopefully we can learn without too many mistakes.

We do know that they are difficult to keep in your fences. That’s why I spent the day fencing. About 1/2 of our property is fenced. But, it’s in pretty poor shape. Three strands of barbed wire might have been enough to keep Gus, the very contented yet lonely, horse that we used to have in the pasture. But it’s doubtful that our fences would keep much of anything in that really wanted out.

So today, I worked on a small cross-fence area that will hopefully keep our goats in. There’s still plenty to do – including straightening a leaning wooden post, pulling the woven wire tight, stringing some barbed wire, and hanging a new 12 foot gate. But we’re on our way to becoming the proud owners of some fine looking goats.

If you have some help with names, let us know in the comments section. Since we’re expecting a baby ourselves around Christmastime, we may even keep the best of names for our newborn.

Future Farmers of America August 27, 2006

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.

These kids LOVE to be outside. They love to skate, ride their bikes, climb trees, fish, pick produce, look for fossils, you name it. But most of all, they love to do whatever Joe and I are doing. One of their favorite activities is driving their tractors.

This farm had a lot of wonderful features already when God led us here- huge mature trees to shade the house (perfect for climbing and tire-swinging, too), fish-stocked ponds, a combination one-stall barn and toolshed, and partial fencing. But if you asked the kids what they appreciate most, it would have to be the quarter mile PAVED driveway. It’s perfect for riding anything on. And ride, they have.ffatractorkids8-22-06.JPG

These pint-sized tractors were under the Christmas tree year before last, just before we moved here. They have A LOT of miles on them now. Benjamin rode this red one so much and with such intensity that he actually snapped the pedals in half. Still, despite the dragging chain and slowed speed, he rode it by pushing it along with his feet.

We have several kind neighbors. The closest one (Mr. Johnny) works for a barge welding company and offered to mend anything for us that got broken. Joe and the kids took the broken pieces over there, and true to his word, Mr Johnny had it fixed and returned the next day. The little farmers were back at work immediately.

Decorating the Nursery August 26, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.

I “blogged” a couple of weeks ago about our disappearing poultry and the supposed predator. We still haven’t verified that we have a snake problem, but the chicks and their mothers needed to be moved to a better location anyway. Living in the basement of the nesting box high-rise is no way for a chick to grow up!


Tuesday evening, Joe and I managed to find about an hour and a half after dinner to recreate the “nursery” adjoining the chicken yard. (It’s mighty hard to find that time with Cub Scouts on one night, church another, etc., but it does our hearts and psyches good to get to spend even a little time in joint effort on a farm project. We’ve got to create more of these opportunities to feel like we’ve accomplished something and enjoy something we love).

Last fall, I had built nice little “single family dwelling” brooding houses to provide safe shelter for the mamas and their broods. I was truthfully a bit proud of these since I pretty much designed and built them myself (Joe cut most of the wood for me). They have hinged roofs so you can clean them out easily (this is also a handy feature when “re-locating” a broody and her eggs). They have doors that act as awnings to keep rain out or can be closed for more warmth at night. I even primed and painted them so they would look nice and last a while. (All they needed was a little picket fence around them!) They were used by last season’s mothers until the chicks were independent and then they all began sleeping in the henhouse (although Sgt. Black, the one with bad arthritis, let her “babies” keep sleeping with her in the nesting boxes until they were far too big to all fit).



This spring, the broodies have been very obstinate. I moved them and their eggs into the brooding coops during the night. At first light, many of them ran right back to the henhouse and sat on fresh eggs.

To solve this problem, I had moved the coops down into the barn stall and used the “nursery” fencing to make a yard off the stall door. That did help the hens to stay in the brooding coops, but I created a new problem. All the chicks hatched out down there refuse to call the henhouse (75 yards away) “home” and still try to roost there even as “teenagers”.

New plan- to keep the new chicks up near the other chickens AND to try to stop our predator problem, we rebuilt the “nursery” adjoining the existing chicken yard. Almost all of the pen is made of chicken wire. This may not keep snakes out, but they should be too fat to get back out if they do eat a chick. At least we could eliminate them then.

After dark on Tuesday evening, we moved the mamas and their babies to the coops. It was an interesting dilemma to figure out what to do with the mamas who were “sharing” one chick. We put them in separate boxes (but didn’t divide the child in half 🙂 ). By morning, they were both herding the chick around and feeding it. To solve the “who is going to keep the baby warm?” question, they compromised. One hen sits on the chick and the other sits halfway on the first hen. Looks uncomfortable and hot to me, but if it makes them happy…

Remember the feedpan mama? Well, she was one who refused to use a brooding coop. Stubborn and dim-witted as she was, she insisted on sleeping outside, down near the barn, well away from Klondike, her protector. One morning, she was missing and 2 orphans were crying pitifully under the honeysuckle tree. They were only a few days old, so I wasn’t sure if they’d make it. I decided to try to adopt them out.orphanone8-22-06.JPG

(It’s hard to tell from the picture because this baby is so darkly colored, but the fuzz on the back half is matted down.  I’m pretty sure that is dog slobber).

The orphans looked just like almost all the other chicks that have hatched lately and they all sound the same to me, so I didn’t think it should be that hard, especially since two hens were sharing one chick. Wouldn’t they each rather have their own child if given the chance? But no, things cannot be that easy.

I tried leaving them loose near the sharing mothers, but they both ignored them. I tried putting them in a box with another mother, but she quickly chased them out. Then Russia, a black Silkie prone to broodiness, hatched two chicks and I gave it another shot.


(Here Russia is having a “bad hair day”).

When Joe and I moved Russia and her 2 chicks to a brooding box, we put the orphans in under her. I hoped that during the night, they would all get used to the sounds of each other and bond. It didn’t happen the first night, but we put them all back again a second time and it seems to have worked so far.wrongsiderussia8-23-06.JPG

(Here you can see that Russia, though a good mother, is not that bright. Despite a wing trimming, she hopped on top of the brooding coop, then over the fence. This left her 2 hatchlings and 2 adopted chicks inside the nursery with no way to follow. WHY can the chickens not figure out how to get back IN if they can figure out how to get OUT?! ChickenMama to the rescue again- I opened the gate).


I’m not sure how these postings get so long, but I’ll end it here. More soon.

Musings About the Future August 23, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.

We have stated in the past that we felt that God’s hand was definitely in the events that brought us to this farm.  That bears repeating again.  We feel He has blessed our endeavors here despite the small amount of time we have been able to invest thus far.  A “city job,” small children, homeschooling, and pregnancies have all limited our abilities to make the visible progress we long for.  Still, we know that things like newly planted fruit trees surviving last year’s drought, wonderful neighbors who show up to help without being asked, and an incredible church family are all signs of His blessings.


We’ve been able to see His work and some of the unfolding of His plan since moving here.  We’ve seen the benefits in the present and appreciated them.  More recently though, we’ve begun to wonder more about His ideas for the future and how we fit in.

We try to be good neighbors and invest ourselves in our church, but I wonder if He has more in mind than just that.  And for that matter, what about all you other Christians that feel the pull to homestead and return to a simpler, more self-sufficient lifestyle?  Do you think it’s coincidence that there is a growing number of us who feel compelled to embrace a lifestyle of agrarianism, strong Christian roots, and the work ethic of bygone days?  Not only that, but to speak up about it and share what we’ve learned with others?


The Bible tells us that in the “end days” the anti-Christ will rise to power and require “the mark of the beast” in order to buy and sell.  It also tells of the rapture of the church (the simultaneous disappearance of Christians from the earth), but is a bit vague about the timing of that.  Many believe that rapture will occur before the tribulation period, but others insist it will be sometime after the tribulation has begun.  Either way, I have to wonder if God is preparing for the survival of His people during that time.


If we Christians have to endure part of that time and refuse to “take the mark,” we will not be allowed to purchase from grocery stores and such.  We will be forced to rely on our own supplies of food and underground bartering with fellow Christians.  Do you see where I am going with this?  The less we rely on “the world” to supply our needs, the better off we will be.  And the more connected we are to fellow believers, the easier we will be able to create this underground bartering network.  This age of computers, websites, and “blogs,” may give us the tools to prepare for what’s ahead.


And if we, the current believers, aren’t here, maybe our efforts are for the new converts to come. To allow them to survive and “get the Word out” to others.  Our merciful God is always trying to give us one more chance.  I think that applies until the very end.

SISTER Patch? August 22, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Today was check-up day again for the kitties. Rachel had a very hard time letting anyone give her baby a shot last time. To prevent upset this afternoon, I let the kids go to our dear friend Carol’s house to play and I took the kittens by myself.

The kitties have been good little passengers on previous trips, but were very nervous today. For most of the trip, I had one in my lap and another on the console beside me meowing and rubbing on me.patchhangingout7-16-06.JPG

After the vet had given the vaccinations, I asked her to check on the gender of the cats again. We had been told at our previous visit that they were both boys (to Benjamin’s delight and Rachel’s disappointment). During the last week, I had noticed that they didn’t look the same. (Apparently, it is pretty difficult to tell for sure until they are at least 2 months old).


Yep, you guessed it. Rachel, who SO wanted Coco to be a girl, has a BOY. And Benjamin, who was glad to have some more males around the place (the kittens + Klondike) has a GIRL. Which also means that we now have a “couple” of cats instead of pals. Joe has really been hoping to avoid the expense of having them “fixed” (about $150 at our vet), figuring that if “the boys went wandering”, at least we wouldn’t have kittens to find homes for. Wouldn’t you know it?

King Solomon’s Dilemma August 19, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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We have a new round of chicks.  The determination of the hens to repopulate the chicken yard has finally paid off for them.  In addition to the broodies in the nesting boxes staging a sit-in, a Barred Rock chicken found a feeding pan in the window of the toolshed/barn and laid a nice stockpile of eggs.  Two weeks had gone by before we realized it.  By then, we knew the eggs weren’t any good anyway, so we just let her do her thing.


About 3 days later, we noticed that the black and white hen setting them had been replaced by a White Rock hen.  Strange.  The displaced Barred Rock hen then chased another chicken off her stash of eggs and began setting in the nesting boxes.  Sunday morning, she was the one with a new baby chick. 

Here’s where it gets sticky-  her baby (that would have been another hen’s baby if she hadn’t been muscled out) disappeared.   This is one that we believe was eaten by a snake.  But, by golly, she wanted a baby and was going to get one.


The next morning, another hen had a hatchling.  Looked pretty much just like the lost one.  Both mamas decided to claim it.  They are both trying to feed and defend it.  I’m not sure how both of them are managing to sit on it to keep it warm (like it should need that in August!), but thus far they have worked it out.  We’ll see if they can keep living in harmony or not.

What about the feedpan mama?  Well, seven identical-looking black chicks began to peck their way out of their shells on Monday.  One never made it all the way out into the big world and two others died within the first few hours (it still bothers me when that happens).  The remaining four are healthy chirping fuzzballs running around their mama’s feet.  I wonder if it bothers the mama that her babies don’t look like her, but then again, what did she expect when she stole another hen’s eggs?


Putting Up the Harvest August 18, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.

A few weeks ago, we went to the Flea Market to poke around. We’ve been looking for old-timey crystal doorknobs and furniture that could have once been in our 100+ year old house. We came across an old wardrobe and a pie safe. They were a bargain compared to many we’d seen and we were very excited.


Thank goodness for pick-up trucks! We loaded both pieces in the bed of Joe’s F-150 with room to spare and headed home. We put the pie safe to immediate use in the kitchen to hold the bounty from our garden. I’ve been canning like a mad woman as things have ripened. As the summer closes, we are so pleased to see the results. (And thanks to Becky for giving us the canner and to those who donated mason jars to our endeavor!).

We’ve got pickled jalapeños and okra, tomatoes, new potatoes, corn chowder, venison stew (meat courtesy of my excellent marksman husband last winter) and green beans among other things. (And if I never smell another green bean cooking while I’m pregnant, I’ll be more than happy! Every time I took the cover off the pots to stir them, I had to hold my breath or gag- nothing wrong with the beans, just something wrong with my nose during pregnancy).


We hope to put up more food yet, but have run out of room to store it. We are planning to put shelves in the wardrobe, so maybe that will help with the overstock. Bon appetit!